Stephen Fry Runs Afoul of the Blasphemy Law

In 2015, the Irish comedian Stephen Fry abruptly became quite serious on TV. He charged: “Why should I respect a mean-spirited, capricious, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain?” His words did not sit well with a certain person who reported him to the police. Fry discovered that he had run afoul of a blasphemy law that he had not even known existed. It was as though he was an extremist himself, nabbed for embarrassing the church people. The Irish Defamation Act would penalize any person who publishes or utters blasphemous material, and Fry was therefore investigated.12

What would Fry say to God face-to-face if he had the chance? a show host asked him on television. He answered: “I’d say ‘Bone cancer in children, what’s that about?’ How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil … Because the god who created this universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.”

Perhaps the Russian Orthodox Church can answer his complaint. Jehovah’s Witnesses can in a heartbeat. It is even a chapter of their basic study book, What Can the Bible Teach Us, entitled Why So Much Suffering? an exploration of verses that effectively reason upon and answer the question. Through their unparalleled public ministry, Jehovah’s Witnesses make every effort to answer Fry’s grievance using the Bible, for surely it has that answer. Dominant churches jealous of their own turf try to run the Witnesses off the road so that they can answer it their way: with defamation laws when ‘God works in mysterious ways’ fails to satisfy. It is well that Russian tort lawyers, if they exist, do not understand scripture, for surely it is religious malpractice to interfere with the quest for the answers as to why there is suffering.

Nonetheless, the learned men have not figured it out, is the gist of ‘Octavius’, so what chance is there that an idiot will? ‘You see,’ Caecilius explains from the 2nd century, but he might just as well be speaking today, “all things in human affairs are doubtful, uncertain, and unsettled.” So it is to be understood that if “some, from the weariness of thoroughly investigating truth, should rashly succumb to any sort of opinion rather than persevere in exploring it with persistent diligence.” He represents those who have done “persistent diligence.” His uneducated Christian opponents do not.13 He later speaks with admiration of a certain philosopher who, “the longer his research continued, the obscurer the truth became to him.” That being so, “in my opinion also, things which are uncertain ought to be left as they are. Nor, while so many and so great men are deliberating, should we rashly and boldly give an opinion in another direction, lest either a childish superstition should be introduced.”14

The reason the great men cannot figure it out is that their wisdom has led them to make a priori assumptions that serve to screen out the true answer when it is presented to them. The ones unindoctrinated need not grapple with these red herrings—frequently they are unaware of them. It really is true that the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s eyes and that he therefore simply ignores it, giving very clear answers only to whomever is willing to extricate themselves from that quagmire.15

This explains why Witnesses of Jehovah can barely contain themselves. Fry cries out the question of the ages. There is scarcely a question more important. The great men have either argued in circles or given up. Yet his question should be answered. Jehovah’s Witnesses have really put themselves out—they have fairly turned their lives upside down—to bring that answer to him, only to be blocked by ‘respectable’ religion. It is not a matter of snatching away church members; let them claim him if they can answer his question. Unfortunately, they cannot, and they will not. They have boxed themselves in with pre-existing notions and unreasonable doctrines. So they don’t try. They take cover instead behind defamation laws. Indeed, several of their doctrines would negate the answer to Fry’s question, though biblically the answer be plain as day.

For example, it is common, upon the death of a young child, for a member of the clergy to explain it with the analogy of how God is picking flowers. It goes something like this: God has a garden; he grows pretty flowers, absolutely the best. But he needs one more. There’s one spot that’s just not right. Ah! The missing ingredient is your sole flower. He’ll pick it. Surely, you’ll be happy. What’s that? You’re not? Who would ever think such an analogy as ‘picking flowers’ would be comforting? It is monstrous. No wonder people go atheist. Take away the most precious thing a person has simply because you have an opening and expect him to be comforted over that?

The ‘picking flowers’ illustration is nowhere found in the Bible. But, just once, the Bible uses an illustration parallel in all respects except the moral, which isexactly opposite from the flower illustration! It takes place after King David, captivated over Uriah’s wife, takes her as his own, impregnates her, and silences her husband by having him killed. The passage reads:

“The LORD sent Nathan to David, and when he came to him, he said: “Tell me how you judge this case: In a certain town there were two men, one rich, the other poor. The rich man had flocks and herds in great numbers. But the poor man had nothing at all except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He nourished her, and she grew up with him and his children. Of what little he had she ate; from his own cup she drank; in his bosom she slept; she was like a daughter to him. Now, a visitor came to the rich man, but he spared his own flocks and herds to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him: he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David grew very angry with that man and said to Nathan: “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves death! He shall make fourfold restitution for the lamb because he has done this and was unsparing. Then Nathan said to David: ‘You are the man!’”16

Now, this analogy is just! The man is not expected to be comforted that the king stole his lamb to impress his visitor. Anyone who’s ever recoiled in disgust at the ‘picking flowers’ analogy is reacting exactly as the Bible says he should! It is the clergyman who is advocating the obscene. The flower picker is not to be praised. He deserves death! Having followed the prophet Nathan’s logic, the atheists take the moral high road in this instance and kill God! The condemnation of religion at Revelation 18:24: “In her was found the blood of…all the ones who have been slaughtered on the earth,” is not due to her war-stoking record alone. It is not just due to her acts of commission; it is also due to her acts of omission. Such teachers swap Bible truth for junk food, and spiritually starved people forage on evolution and atheism for nourishment.

Since the illustration is slanderous toward God and not found in the Bible, why do so many clergy members use it? The answer is that they have bought into unscriptural and unreasonable doctrines that unfailingly paint them into moral corners. You make a god-awful mess trying to escape from these corners. The unscriptural doctrine here is: ‘When we die we don’t really die.’ That is, there is some component of us, usually called the soul, that lives on. It is immortal. Have you been good? Then death is your friend. You get promoted to heaven, and how can anyone not be happy to see good people promoted? It’s a win-win! The trouble is, people don’t behave as though it’s a win-win. People mourn at funerals, they don’t rejoice. They take a long time to readjust. Some never readjust to the death of their child; children are not supposed to die before the parent. Death is not natural. It is not a friend, as most religions would have us believe. It is an enemy.17

Returning to Fry’s complaint, note who takes the hit for religious negligence. It is God! Fry rails against God, not clergy persons and not religion! He should rail against the latter, for it is they that fail in their job to explain God. It should not be God who takes the hit. Fry simply assumes—what reasonable person would not?—that if there is an answer to a spiritual question, the self-proclaimed experts will have it. That they do not must mean that an answer does not exist. It does not occur to him that the experts are themselves misled, or in some cases even frauds. God’s reputation suffers. Even beyond addressing Fry’s righteous gripe, Jehovah’s Witnesses ardently want to defend God; after all, that is the function of a witness: to defend one who is accused.

It is a stretch, but perhaps Fry will one day come across Jehovah’s Witnesses and be puzzled at finding that they are in Russia a ‘totalitarian sect.’ It is too bad for him that they are so maligned. So fundamental are his questions of God and suffering that even if the repugnant word ‘totalitarian’ was true, he might decide to rethink his objection to it, for it is not as though anyone else in the field of religion has offered anything to satisfy his spiritual thirst. Slandering good people with charges of totalitarianism does not always work. Sometimes the contrast between the accusations and what people can see right before their eyes is too great, and people are drawn to what they might not otherwise have noticed. For some the best motivation to do something is to be told that they cannot. Might Fry be one of those people?

His words were reported to the police by “a member of the public, who asked not to be identified,” and who later explained that he (this is too much—it really is) “had not personally been offended by Fry’s comments—I added that I simply believed that the comments made by Fry were criminal blasphemy and that I was doing my civic duty by reporting a crime.” If the incident mirrors the incidents of many countries, the “member of the public” was an infuriated clergyman, maybe even Dvorkin himself, who was personally offended and therefore tried to arrest the one who had insulted him and his profession. In the end, whoever it was did not succeed. Fry was not charged. It was decided to let the law slide because “no one was hurt.”

Sure, go ahead and slap down Fry, if you must. But also address his complaint. Had his complaint even once been addressed, he might not have launched his TV salvo to begin with. Few pay any attention to the Bible’s explanation of suffering because it is Jehovah’s Witnesses that offer it. As with most things, it is not what is said that is important. It is who says it. People look to a respectable source to answer such questions, for surely answers should come from someone trained in academia, they assume. “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the open squares she raises her voice,” says the proverb. ‘Nonsense!’ the world’s movers and shakers respond. ‘It cries aloud in the university campuses and quadrangles. Only ignoramuses are found on the street.’18

How a religion can be considered a respectable source while coming up empty-handed on the fundamental questions of life is a question for others to ponder. But popular religion will ever be a reflection of what people honor most, and such fundamental questions, while they may appear on the list of concerns, do not rank as highly as does fitting in with the world’s overall aims and thereby enjoying respectability.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, who, at significant expense and inconvenience, have put themselves out to answer questions like Fry’s, should not be impeded. Let’s face it—one builds up some ‘street cred’ through such an unpaid public ministry. There is nothing in it for them. Sure, it can be spun in a derisive manner by persons intent on that aim: that they have a ‘need’ to validate themselves or a ‘need’ to be right. But it is better to take it at face value: as doing a good deed. Witnesses understand kingdom preaching as a Christian duty dictated by love of God, for he is the one who gets slammed—and for neighbor, for they are the ones who suffer for it. If you have knowledge, you don’t just sit on it. How loving would that be? You light the lamp and put it on a lampstand.

From the ebook Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia

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A Developing World at the Mercy of Rationalism

At first, following the financial markets crash of 2008, it appeared that the countries suffering the most would be the “guilty” countries: the ones whose banks invented the super leveraged credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations—the ones whose governments and citizens were head over heels in debt—the ones whose people had replaced the Bible with Consumer Reports. “Responsible” countries, those operating a surplus, whose citizens were frugal, such as China, Japan, and Germany, would emerge relatively unscathed. Ah, but it was not to be! The latter countries have suffered as much or more. Their strong balance sheet comes from exports, and now who remains to buy their goods?

But the really innocent countries, countries of the developing world, fare the worst by far. There, the downturn doesn’t mean tarnished golden years. It means lives lost. Seldom are cause and effect linked so clearly. Most often there is sufficient disconnect so that the connivers on top can remain oblivious to the havoc they wreak below. But not this time.

Economist this week considers the plight of Africa, (The Toxins Trickle Downward, March 14, 2009) where in recent years, millions have inched their way above the poverty line, only to be shoved firmly beneath it again. Such countries are impacted in three ways: 1) credit market are closed to them, as they are riskier borrowers, and financial aid from wealthier countries wither, 2) commodity prices have collapsed, and commodities are usually their primary exports, and 3) remittances from citizens working abroad have dried up. The World Bank reckons these three factors will account for 200,000 - 400,000 lives lost, all children.

It is rare that the failure of human rule is shown in such stark relief, with consequences so directly traceable. How damnnable that people nonetheless prefer it to God’s rulership as outlined in the Bible, as advertised by his Witnesses, and as practiced by the Christian organization. Here is an excerpt from someone who has left God—our God, no less, Jehovah, to embrace atheism. He gushes effusively about his new “rational worldview:”

“Rationalism for me means a life of pure freedom...But this means that this life that you’re living now is the most precious thing you’ll ever have....Because there is no Big Daddy to appease or suck up to, or be afraid of, you should be nice to people because it’s nice! You should treat people like you want to be treated! You should not steal or murder because it hurts people, and hurting people is wrong. Always. No one needs a god to tell them this...

“Being a rationalist...if you say something irrational or realize the error in your own thoughts, a red flag immediately raises....rationalism is a worldview with no drawbacks, and only positives. It encourages honesty and truth...It promotes interest in the common good...”

How lofty and soaring the words sound! How much rubbish they are in reality! As the example of developing countries shows, people use their “pure freedom,” to grind others into the dirt, and not to “treat people like you want to be treated!” (an exclamation mark, no less—oh, the joys of rationalism!) They are not “nice to people.” They “hurt people,” two to four hundred thousand of them, even though “hurting people is wrong.” Plainly, we do need a “big Daddy to appease” and a “god to tell” us how to live.

If you had had a son or daughter high up in the banking world, who was devising the complex financial instruments that would ultimately ruin us all, you would have carried on about how well junior was doing for himself, how respected he was in the business world, and so forth. Even experts in the field had not a clue they were playing with dynamite; if they had, they would have cashed out their investments before the markets plunged.

The fact is that humans were not designed to rule themselves. It’s an ability they do not have. Whether through greed, ignorance, pride, or some mix of the three, the record of human rule aptly illustrates Jeremiah’s words: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”   (Jeremiah 10:23)

Today, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses govern its affairs in accord with Bible principles, which provides a hopeful foregleam of life under God’s kingdom rule. It is well known that racial and tribal divisions—the ones tearing apart the world—utterly fail to divide Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is well known that when natural disaster strikes, teams of volunteers promptly care for their own, rebuilding homes while governments are yet ascertaining the damage. It’s well known that Kingdom Halls in the developing world are often the most impressive building in town, far more than what the locals could afford on their own—due to a sharing of resources and building talent from wealthier countries.

All this provided through an organization which counsels, which directs, which disciplines its own, which insists on members living by Bible principles. Malcontents, such as one may find online, launch blistering attacks at this, for it seems to impede their freedom, and this they will not tolerate, even in trivial matters. But Witnesses’s “economy” works to the good of developing countries, rather than trampling them underfoot. (March 2009)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Two Darwin Things That Might Have Changed History

Two spiritual events can be traced in the life of Charles Darwin. Had those events turned out differently, one wonders what effect it might have had on his scientific contributions.

The first came with the death of his favorite child, his daughter Annie. At age 10, the child contracted scarlet fever. She agonized for six weeks before dying. Also a casualty was Darwin’s faith in a beneficent Creator. The book Evolution: Triumph of an Idea, by Carl Zimmer, tells us that Darwin “lost faith in angels.” That is an odd expression. Why would it be used? They probably told him that God was picking flowers.

Is there any analogy more slanderous to God than the one in which God is picking flowers? Up there in heaven he has the most beautiful garden imaginable. But it is not enough! He is always on the watch for pretty flowers, the very best, and if he spots one in your garden, he helps himself, even though it may be your only one. Yes, he needs more angels, and if your child is the most pure, the most beautiful, happy, innocent child that can be, well—watch out! He or she may become next new angel. Sappy preachers give this illustration all the time, apparently thinking it gives comfort.

Not surprisingly, the ‘picking flowers’ analogy is nowhere found in the Bible. However, a parallel analogy is found in 2nd Samuel, where it is used to make exactly the opposite point: the flower picker should be executed. The setting is when King David took for himself the attractive wife of one of his subjects and, upon impregnating her, had that subject killed to cover his tracks:

“The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

“David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die!  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:1-7, NIV)

Now, this analogy appeals to us. This is just. The man is not expected to take comfort that the king stole his wife. No, he deserves execution! So how is it that when we are told God has done the same, we’re expected to feel all warm and fuzzy?

Isn’t this like Abraham Lincoln saying that he was not smart enough to lie? His meaning was that if you lie, you have to adjust every subsequent statement to be consistent with that lie, otherwise you will get caught. Telling the truth presents no such challenge.

The picking flowers analogy is an attempt to cover a lie, and as we have seen, it doesn’t satisfy. The lie is that, when we die, we don’t really die because the soul lives on, going straight to heaven if we’ve been good. Thus, death is a friend. It is a chance for promotion, and we are all happy to see good people promoted. In this context, the Bible’s hope of a resurrection is meaningless. (Acts 24:15) How can someone be resurrected if they never actually died?

Better to tell the truth from the start, and then you don’t have to invent ridiculous stories to cover your tracks. Death is not a friend, it is an enemy. Nor is it God’s purpose for humans; it came upon us due to rebellion. Nor does it bring us into a new state of consciousness; instead we become nonexistent, a state that can be likened to unconsciousness or sleep. Nor does God purpose to leave us in this sad predicament, but he’s taken steps to eliminate death.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned,” says Romans 5:12. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor 15:25) “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten….Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave,  where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5,10)

“After he had said this, he went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’ His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead…’” (John 11:11-14)

How different history might have been had Darwin known the truth about death. Not just Darwin, of course, but everyone of his time, as well as before and after. Instead, fed a diet of phony pieties—junk food, really—he and others of inquisitive minds searched elsewhere in an attempt to make sense of life.

The second spiritual event revealing another crisis of faith, is to be seen in a letter of Darwin’s to American colleague Asa Gray. Darwin stated: “…I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world.”

Plainly, this statement concerns, not science, but God. His question was spiritual, or at least philosophical: ‘Why is there so much misery? How does that square with a God who is supposed to be all-loving and all-powerful?’

Bear in mind that, in younger days, Darwin trained to become a clergyman. This is not to say that he was unusually devout. Rather, he was undecided as a youth; he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. Most go through such a phase. Many never emerge. At the time, the clergy represented a respectable calling for educated people who didn’t find a place anywhere else.

Why didn’t he know why God permitted suffering? It’s not as though an answer does not exist. It is outlined in chapter 44. If Charles Darwin had been familiar with the answer, yet rejected it, that would be one thing. But it seems clear that he had no clue. The fault is not his. It is that of the church, which was charged to make certain truths, or teachings, known, but which failed to discharge that commission, choosing paths more self-serving. You might say that Darwin was spiritually starved.

Had he known the Bible’s answer regarding misery and suffering, it may be that he, and other active minds of his day, might have put a different spin on discoveries of rocks, fossils, and finches. It is why Jehovah’s Witnesses are so enthusiastic over Scripture, sometimes to the point of being pests. The Bible’s explanation of the causes of suffering and death is tremendously liberating. It affects powerfully one’s outlook on life. (July 2006)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Enemies

As though it happened yesterday, this gem appears on a recent Australian jurisprudence questionnaire:

“Some Jehovah’s Witnesses approach people in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighbourhood and play a CD entitled ‘Enemies’ to them. The CD describes all organized religions as ‘instruments of Satan’ and then viciously attacks Catholicism in particular. Do you think that the law ought to prohibit conduct of this kind? Discuss with reference to rights and the public/private distinction.”

So a certain blogger assumes that it did happen yesterday—why would she not? and fires off a response:

“Oh I really believe this scenario. It’s exactly what they’d do. Not what I ever would have done. I never had that sort of conviction. Oh how embarrassing! No wonder other churches call them “weirdo religious strangers.” They call other churches “enemies” and “instruments of Satan,” for goodness sake!”

Well, for goodness sake, it does seem mean-spirited, doesn’t it? But it didn’t happen yesterday. It happened eighty years ago. And it was a phonograph record, not a CD. Enemies was published in 1937 and was distributed for less than ten years. Someone’s doing a hatchet job here, hoping to embarrass me. But both the book and record were entirely appropriate for their time. In fact, given the same circumstances, I believe Jehovah’s Witnesses would do it again.

In the aftermath of World War I, had not the mainline churches effectively proven themselves enemies of God, of Christ, and of man? They had, on both sides, stoked and cheered the conflict which would claim 16 million lives, with an additional 21 million wounded. With another world war approaching, they showed every sign of resuming that role. Yet in the interim, they had presumed to slide right back into that cozy seat of representing the Prince of Peace, claiming to speak in his name.

Eighty years later, it is hard to appreciate how enthusiastic church leaders were for the war, how they worked as cheerleaders for both sides. It hardly seems believable. Surely, there must be an exaggeration. But, reflecting back, we find numerous statements validating the unbelievable. For example, British brigadier general Frank Crozier stated: “The Christian Churches are the finest blood-lust creators which we have and of them we made free use.” A few more quotes of the day follow, in all cases made by high-ranking clergymen, not lone renegades:

Bishop of London A. F. Winnington-Ingram urged the English people: “Kill Germans—do kill them; not for the sake of killing, but to save the world, to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young as well as the old, to kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends….As I have said a thousand times, I look upon it as a war for purity, I look upon everyone who died in it as a martyr.” (Perspective (a Journal of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary), Vol. X, No. 1, Spring 1969, p. 78) He said it a thousand times!

And from the other side? The archbishop of Cologne, Germany, said the following to German soldiers: “Beloved people of our Fatherland, God is with us in this fight for righteousness where we have been drawn in against our wish. We command you in the name of God, to fight to the last drop of your blood for the honor and glory of the country. In his wisdom and justice, God knows that we are on the side of righteousness and he will give us the victory.” (La Dernière Heure, January 7, 1967).

In America? An editorial in the Christian Register says it all: “As Christians, of course, we say Christ approves [of the war]. But would he fight and kill?...There is not an opportunity to deal death to the enemy that he would shirk from or delay in seizing! He would take bayonet and grenade and bomb and rifle and do the work of deadliness against that which is the most deadly enemy of his Father’s kingdom in a thousand years.” (The Christian Register, Vol. 97, No. 33 (Aug. 15, 1918), p. 775. quotation taken from the book Preachers Present Arms, by Ray H Abrams)

Sure, such fighting words might come from a general. And in the midst of war fever, from a statesman, or a patriot, or a businessman, or the average citizen. But from the Church, the institution claiming Christian leadership, asserting that they and they alone speak for Christ? Is it not a tad at odds with Christ’s own words? “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) If you don’t prove discipleship when it counts, during wartime, just when do you prove it? And after the war, should those clergy sweep their bloodthirsty record under the rug, and once again presume to speak in Jesus’ name? Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t think so. If Enemies seems mean-spirited today, it wasn’t a fraction as mean-spirited as the catalyst that prompted it.

Now, you must admit, it would take guts to distribute that book and play that record. Nowadays, every wussy milquetoast of an atheist takes swipes at religion on his anonymous website, but Jehovah’s Witnesses went eyeball to eyeball with those enemies, in person, and what’s more, they went to members of their flocks. Introducing Enemies to a convention audience in Columbus Ohio, Watchtower President Rutherford declared: “You will notice that its cover is tan, and we will tan the old lady’s hide with it!” It gives the lie to Sam Harris’s one-time complaint as to how the moderate “good” churches failed to condemn their more belligerent brethren, reining them in, refusing to “call a spade a spade.” We did it before he was in diapers and did it with a courage that he would be unable to match.

From the 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses: “The phonograph work was not carried on without opposition. Ernest Jansma tells us: ‘There were cases of some having their phonographs literally and viciously smashed right before their eyes. Others had them ruthlessly thrown off porches. One brother in the Middle West stood by and watched an angry farmer blow his machine into oblivion with a shotgun, then heard pellets whine past his auto as he left the scene. They were vicious and religiously fanatical in those days.’ Amelia and Elizabeth Losch tell of an occasion when the recording “Enemies” was played for a crowd on the porch of a certain home. After the talk ended, one woman took the record off the machine and broke it, saying, ‘You can’t talk about my pope like that!’”

Today, the influence of the clergy is insignificant compared to what it was then.  I mean, they’re respected so long as they stay in their place, but their place is much reduced from what it once was. In the days of Enemies, their place was anywhere they wanted it to be. They maintained a stranglehold upon popular thought. Catholics, in particular, as one may have heard great-grandparents say, were not allowed to read the Bible. That’s what the priest was for, and he would explain it as he saw fit, in accordance with church doctrine. In town after town, Jehovah’s Witnesses would place literature with interested persons, and clergy would follow and demand it back. Such was the command they enjoyed, that they often got it.

Frankly, if Christendom’s influence is a ghost of what it once was, Jehovah’s Witnesses get the “credit,” in my view. The Enemies campaign was but one of many back in those days. Look, Wilbur and Orville Wright are credited with inventing the airplane. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have planes had they never been born. Someone else would have invented them. But they were the first. They had the foresight and guts to persevere with a notion that everyone else thought was impossible.

Some, taking the opposite view of the blogger quoted in the third paragraph, mutter that Jehovah’s Witnesses have become too cordial with other religions, that they have made their peace, that they have wimped out. But there’s no point in kicking the ‘old lady’ while she’s down. We kicked her while she was up. Nowadays, everybody kicks her. So why should we? Whatever account she must render is with God, not us. All we ever wanted to do was loosen her hold on people, so they would not be afraid to listen to new ideas. That was accomplished decades ago. (May 2009)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Why Do Bad Things Happen? Updated for Atheists, Sort of

When Moristotle the Atheist read my post ‘Why Bad Things Happen,’ he almost threw up. He declared it a “fantasy,” aspects of which were “utterly repulsive,” and the rest “not only not nice at all, nor even adolescent, but simply infantile.” If we could only get this fellow to say what he really thinks and stop pussyfooting around, he might amount to something!

Still, I took his concerns to heart. It’s not pleasant throwing up—it just isn’t. Was there a way to write essentially the same thing in a way that he and his would find more palatable? After all, he declared a related post of mine “profound.” True, he was just being nice, he later pointed out, but at least there was no gag reflex, or at least he overcame it.

It may not be possible to make this stuff more palatable for a certain type of person. Any discussion as to why God tolerates evil must necessarily link to Adam and Eve, and link to them rather substantially. They simply are that key of a building block. And so you have to overcome the ‘We are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. What’s next, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?’ syndrome. It occurred to me only much later that you could invite such persons to consider it as a symbolism that need not be taken literally. That almost works better. Certain types love being thought perceptive enough to be entrusted with such an interpretive task—leave it on the shelf till later whether it actually happened or not. Still, I did not realize this at the time. My job was not going to be easy.

Let’s start with some common ground, just like Paul did at the Areopagus. Moristotle had recently trotted out a Greek named Diagoras, who is apparently the world’s first recorded atheist. There was a little quibbling over that, but I eventually conceded the point. Okay. Here goes. Wish me luck.

 

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Was Diagoras the world’s first atheist? He is credited that way. Read up on him and you will find that he is remembered as Diagoras the Atheist. Isn’t he the fellow who used a wooden statue of Hercules as fuel to cook his turnips? If Hercules didn’t like it—well, let him do something about it. And how did Diagoras end up an atheist? Wikipedia tells us: “He became an atheist after an [unspecified] incident that happened against him went unpunished by the gods”

Why wasn’t it punished? Why didn’t God fix it? He’s God, after all. Isn’t he supposed to be all-powerful? We hear this all the time from atheists, agnostics and even believers. Why didn’t he solve Diagoras’s problem and stop the man from going atheist?

It’s because he’d never be able to do anything else. He’d be sticking band-aid after never-ending band-aid on a system of things that is inherently unjust, even designedly so. Instead, in keeping with his original purpose, he purposes to replace this system of things with one of his own design. Injustice in that system of things will be a memory only.

After all, what is the injustice that caused Diagoras such soul-searching? Only the one that touched him personally! Had he not witnessed hundreds of injustices in his lifetime? To say nothing of ones his society was built upon. We positively slobber over Greeks as cradle of wisdom, birthplace of democracy, mecca of free thinkers, and so forth, yet they enjoyed their privileged status only on the backs of others. That society embraced slavery. It treated women abominably. And weren’t Greeks the original pedophiles? The same sexual molestation of children so roundly condemned today was enshrined in respectable Greek society. Are these among the injustices Diagoras was concerned with? Did he even recognize them as injustices? Possibly, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Let’s face it, few situations of this world today are win-win. Generally, someone pays the price when we win. Hopefully, for politicians and Pollyannas, it is someone we don’t see in another land or another class. But there is somebody most often and we usually don’t even know about it. The system is designed that way. Get the sufferer as far away from the privileged one as possible so that the latter does not see the link and declares any such talk as but crybaby whining. Don’t think that any political party owns the problem. It is inherent with human self-rule. A new system of things is in keeping with the Bible’s premise that humans were not designed to be independent of God.

Things might have turned out differently. The Adam and Eve and Garden of Eden account, brief though it is, demonstrates God’s original intent. “Further, God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it,’” says Genesis 1:28. The very name Eden means “pleasure;” garden of Eden becomes, when translated into Greek, “paradise of pleasure,” and “subduing the earth” is code for spreading those conditions earth wide. Had humans, starting with the first pair, remained content to live under God’s direction, life today would be a far cry from what it is today. But almost from the start, they balked.

Consider Genesis chapter 3: “Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: ‘Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?’ At this the woman said to the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But as for [eating] of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “you must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it that you do not die.”’

“At this the serpent said to the woman: ‘You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.’ Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses understand the “knowing good and bad” of verse five to be a matter of declaring independence. “You don’t need God telling you what is good and what is bad. You can decide such things yourself and thus be “like God.” The serpent even portrays God as having selfish motive, as though trying to stifle the first couple—a sure way to engender discontent. The ploy was successful. Those first humans chose a course of independence, with far-ranging consequences that have cascaded down to our day.

After a lengthy time interval allowed by God so that all can see the end course of a world run independent of him, he purposes to bring it again under his oversight. This is what the prophet Daniel refers to: “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Daniel 2:44)

Jesus refers to it, too, in The Lord’s Prayer: “...Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) Does anybody seriously expect God’s will to be done on earth under the present system? Here and there, one can see a glimmer, of course, but to predominate? The time for God’s will to be done is when his kingdom comes.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God’s permission of injustice, even evil, is bound up with this trial period of human rule, soon to end. In a sense, the modern-day atheist counterparts of Diagoras have voted for the wrong party. They voted Republicans out of office in favor of Democrats (or vice versa) and they are now incensed that Republicans aren’t delivering on their promises! God’s kingdom is the arrangement that will end injustice. But they continue to vote for human rule. Does anyone think that humans will end injustice?

What the upset ones really want is, not so much an end of injustice, but an end to the symptoms of injustice, mostly the ones that affect them personally, just like with Diagoras. But human rule itself is the source of injustice. We’re simply not designed with the ability to “rule” ourselves. Is it “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely?” God’s Kingdom will not treat the symptoms of injustice; it will uproot the source. (February 2008)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

Injustice

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Climate Change and Global Warming: To Be or Not to Be?

The former local weatherman, Kevin Williams, tweets a photo of all his weather chums at a restaurant. "Aha!" I said. "I KNEW it. It IS a cabal! There IS collusion!" He liked that.

Now, I happen to know that Kevin Williams thinks global warming is a hoax. It is no secret. He is very open about it. He follows and sometimes retweets content of the man-on-a-mission climate change denier JWspry. (NOT, so far as I know, any connection to the JW of Jehovah's Witnesses) So I tweeted: "Are they across the board on global warming or on the same page, one way or another?"

No answer.

So I tweeted: "Ahh. Avoiding the answer to that question is the key to continued cohesion. Probably as it should be. Not everything has to be a fight."

He liked that one.

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Of course. You can't fight all the time. People believe what they believe, according to how they interpret the facts. Or more likely, they believe what they believe, and then spin the available facts to give themselves intellectual cover. We are not nearly so unemotional as the champions of critical thought would have us believe. We are dominated by emotion forged in experience and we thereafter consult our brains to make it fly logically.

It is even as the Bible says with spiritual things. "Prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God," says Romans 12:2. "Taste and see that Jehovah is good," says Psalm 34:8. What if someone tastes and sees that he is bad? Other than to advise he check his taste buds, there is little you can do about it. So don't get into judging. Present your version of truth as persuasively as you can and leave it at that. God knows whether he is a Trinity or not. He also knows whether he exists or not. Let him sort it out.

I asked Kevin (or was it JWspry?) about a previous post I wrote of how there was now 'Weather on Steroids.' He said it all depends upon what is reported. If you eagerly report all record highs and ignore all record lows, it does create that impression. Reporting means a lot. As Florence was churning over the Atlantic to deluge the Carolinas, everyone warned how it was especially fearsome because it was gathering strength over exceptionally warm waters made so by climate change. In fact, they were exceptionally cool waters and the surprise was that it became such a monster despite that.

Every time we hear, "it was the hottest summer since the year such and such," that means it was hotter in that year, and if anything, we are witness to global cooling, with lower highs. The stranded polar bear photo has admittedly been misrepresented, Al Gore's 'Inconvenient Truth' book has been lambasted for mishandling data to paint dire scenarios which have not panned out. To the extent emotion is the true driver in human affairs, Upton Sinclair's quote is the one to watch: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Big money is involved, either way, in climate change.

Me, I don't go there. It's not my cause. If humans are not ruining the earth in a Revelation 11:18 scenario via global warming, it is not as though they are too responsible to ever ruin the earth; it is that their combined activity is not powerful enough to do it. They are ruining it in plenty of other ways. To the extent 'ruining the earth' reflects the ruining the earth scenario of Genesis 6, it is not environmental factors at all being spoken of, but violence. Do we live in a violent world today? Tell me about it.

 

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There Was Not a Moment to Lose

"At the home of Victor Vomidog, an alarm panel light pulsed red. Victor read the incoming feed. It was serious. Someone was saying nice things about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Instantly, he swung into action. There was not a moment to lose. He opened his door and whistled. The media came running. “Witnesses are selfish!” he cried. “They only think of themselves! Why don’t they help everyone? Why do they just do their own people?” That evening, media ran the headline: “WHY DON’T THEY HELP EVERYONE?”

"But they had asked the wrong question. The headline they should have run, but didn’t, because they didn’t want to deal with the answer, was: “WHY AREN’T OTHERS DOING THE SAME?” The answer to the first question is obvious: Witness efforts consist of volunteers using their vacation time. Just how much time is the boss going to grant?"

(from Tom Irregardless and Me)

Of course, it is about opposers' efforts to denigrate the disaster recovery work Witnesses are known for.

Heavy_rain_disaster_in_Hiroshima-20140823_181654

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Who We Are, Why We Are, and Where are We Going

I used to love it when Watchtower publications would run that Vermont Royster quote. After remarking on how far we have come science-wise, he added: “Yet here is a curious thing. In the contemplation of man himself, of his dilemmas, of his place in the universe, we are little further along than when time began. We are still left with questions of who we are and why we are and where we are going.”

It is pretty obvious why Jehovah’s Witnesses would love those words; they make clear that a shallow world of materialism will not do. You can even think those words every time a Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain takes his life. Or anyone else. Suicide is all the rage today. People decide that ‘Hotel World’ has not that much to offer, and they line up at the counter to check out.

Isn't it a little missing the point when people look for the one factor, maybe social media, that is tipping people over the edge? Or suggest that it is all a matter of better mental health care? 

“For over half a century, as a journalist, author, and teacher, Vermont Royster illuminated the political and economic life of our times. His common sense exploded the pretensions of "expert opinion," and his compelling eloquence warned of the evils of society loosed from its moorings in faith,” read the citation when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1986.

There are few things I enjoy more than exploding the pretensions of "expert opinions."

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You Don't Have to Rub Their Noses in It

So much understanding of basics as: Why does God permit #suffering and the concept of relative freedom lies in understanding of the book of Genesis ...Adam and Eve... but when you refer to it, people roll their eyes...it is a religious fable to them. You get as much #bangforthebuck with such folk by suggesting that they take it as metaphor.

You may get even more, for people love metaphors and they love the idea of proving themselves sensitive and smart by discerning the underlying message.

You don't have to rub their noses in it and insist they take it literally. Go for the underlying message. It is all order of presentation. You can clean up the rest later.

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The Icing on the Cake Comes in the New System

The #3 2018 Watchtower made the point about healing: "Consider: If the Creator designed our bodies to heal physical wounds, can we not have confidence in his promise to help us recover from emotional injuries, too?"

Two things interfere, qualifying the healing to a "help us" healing. 1. The mind is in the business of remembering, unlike the knee you scrape, 2. With the knee you scrape, you can get it away from whatever scraped it. In this system, that can be more of a challenge, and won't completely cure out until the new system. As one brother said somewhere on the broadcast: 'In the new system, resurrected people will look back and say 'how could you ever have lived during those times, with the constant stress?"

But we can smoothe it out to some extent, even now, just by activity, routine, who and where we hang out, our 'input' and so forth. "He binds up the brokenhearted" happens even now, but the icing on the cake comes in the new system.

#Watchtower #Healing

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